ELI5 why do DJs sometimes hold one of their earcups?

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Headphones off, they’re listening to current music. Headphones on, listening to what to play next. One earphone up, matching beat and tempo/speed of both songs to mix well. Once upon a time I was a (very) small time aspiring DJ

NoReallyLetsBeFriend

Djs need to hear both what you hear, and the music they are preparing on you headphones. They can do this electronically, but many quickly put down an earcup for convenience.

Taki_Yaki_Naki

So in order to prepare the next song, the DJ need to set the transition. That’s what he is doing most of the time, listening to the next version to the mix in advance in order to launch it at the right time.

gr0gui

To make sure the beat of the next song matches the beat of the currently playing song. One ear to hear what is currently playing and the other to hear the one that will be played next

obiwanjacobi

To add to what’s already been said, as to what they are listening for, with EDM like house and trance, the music is matched by way of the kick drum. So by listening closely they can determine if one track is too fast or too slow and adjust pitch or tempo accordingly. For things like breakbeats and drum and bass, the music is matched on the snare, but the idea is the same.

jp_taylor